For as long as I can remember, I have been deeply involved in politics. I started out as a speechwriter for candidates when I was 15 years old. I served in local government as a corporation counsel and then went on to serve in the state Assembly for 23 years. I travel to Albany frequently representing clients.
Does this make me an expert? Probably not, but from time to time, my instincts tell me that something is going to happen in our business and sometimes I am right. I should add I have made my share of mistakes.
Each day the media is dominated by stories about pending legal actions against former President Donald Trump. Whether it’s the Manhattan grand jury or the Georgia grand jury or Special Counsel Rice, it is a constant drip-drip of accusations. Little has been said about the grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, but it is all part of the big ugly picture.
Trump like any person is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but there is some serious gravity attached to this docket of cases, anyone of which could sink the average person and lead to a jail sentence.
Most possible defendants listen to their counsel and measure their words in defense of their case, making it a point not to inflame their tormentors. Mr. Trump is totally incapable of keeping quiet each day and his responses are getting uglier by the moment. Calling the Manhattan District Attorney an “animal” and raising the antisemitic trope of George Soros, is another way of getting some fair-minded voter to dismiss Mr. Trump from their future political considerations.
As an attorney, I am not inclined to comment on pending cases, but it is obvious that the possible Georgia election interference matter is pretty serious, considering there are recordings of Trump calls to elected officials asking them to overturn the voting results. When your own words can be used against you in front of a jury, the battle for exoneration is probably an impossible dream.
The second case of heavy weight is the matter involving retention of classified documents. The special counsel handling that case has told federal judges that there may be “criminal law violations.” That means that there are possible facts that could sink the former president.
Mr. Trump will have no problem raising funds for his defense, unlike the average Jane or Joe, because his every utterance is part of a sophisticated campaign to raise money. To date, in mostly small contributions, he is said to have over $80 million on hand. That enables him to hire any lawyer who is willing to risk their law license to represent him. But the question of the moment is whether the torrent of court cases will at the end of the process sink his hopes to get back into the White House?
Weighing all of these factors and many more, I have come to the conclusion that when the Republicans choose their standard-bearer in 2024, it will not be Donald Trump. I believe that the procession of serious charges will cause the millions of suburban voters to send a message that they will support anyone but Trump.
Mr. Trump can claim that he is prepared to seek another term, even if he is under indictment. In that case he is speaking for himself and not the voters that the party needs. There may be a group of hard-core Trump voters out there, but you can’t win a general election with 30 percent of the vote.
Because Mr. Trump may be prepared to burn the house down, it is possible he will run anyway, which would help re-elect President Biden. But a series of charges with heavy criminal overtones might be enough to drive him out of the race.
I have my own views about who the Republican designee will be, but I leave that to the party to pick their own candidates. For now it is my gut instinct that Donald Trump will not be the candidate of his party come 2024.